Wednesday, August 31, 2005 - The Ultimate Blog Exchange Experiment Begins!

My experiment to discover whether 25,000 hits off BlogExplosion will have any effect on long-term readership, however ill-advised it may be, is about to begin. If you didn't read the original post, check it out here.

Here's how I'll be monitoring things: On a weekly basis, I'll be logging changes in my comment volume, the number of Google links, the number of Technorati links and the amount of fan/hate mail I get.

Since, as we all know, BE will bring in a plethora of hits, I don't that reporting my hit levels will have any meaning. Instead, every 2500 visitors, I'll be hitting the 'pause' button on the BE campaign (yes, there is one) for a week. During this time, no hits will come from BE. So, over the course of those weeks, I'll be comparing my hits to pre-experiment levels.

With any luck, I'll be able to post all of this info in a nicely formatted way that everyone can follow, but I make no promises. So, here goes...


Cavan blogged at 11:34 PM | 15 comments


- How to Use a DDR Pad

I ordered a pair in order to have some DDR-style action in the future. Anyway, with the pads came the following instructions (no joke).
  • Make sure to pave the cushion
  • Young children must be guided to use it or need parents and teaches to accompany, in case to be tumbled by it.
  • High technology product, do not apart, separate or fix it anyway. Or the damage can not be guaranteed.
  • Do noe keep it in the quite high or low temperature environment, especially far away from fireplace.
  • If this product can't work well, please connect with your supplier directly.
  • Do not use it outdoors or in other occasion.
  • Please put it on a flat floor, but not too smooth.
  • When using this product, pay attention to keep your feet safety.
  • Please do not jump strongly, that may bring troubles to the other person.


Cavan blogged at 9:44 PM | 1 comments


Tuesday, August 30, 2005 - Kung Fu Hustle

Does for the kung fu genre what Shaun of the Dead did for the zombie flick. Unfortunately, unlike Shaun, Kung Fu Hustle doesn't hit its target all the time. However, the fight scenes are terrific - they mix in the occasional bit of humour, but for the most part, they're as impressive as you'd expect to find in any "serious" martial arts movie. When writer/director/star Chow goes for pure comedy, the results can vary. Notably, a chase scene and another scene involving knives and snakes are examples of slapstick comedy done to perfection, but at other times the jokes just didn't fly for me. Overall, a pretty entertaining flick, but I can't give it as high a score as the critics did. My grade: B-

Synopsis: In Shanghai in the '30s, times are dangerous and gangs rule the streets. The most notorious of these, the Axes, strike fear into the hearts of honest citizens and inspire admiration in one young wannabe. One day, in a slum on the outskirts of town, he wreaks havoc when he recklessly poses as an Axe member and causes a veritable riot between the real gang members and the denizens of a housing project who just so happen to be strangely well versed in the art of kung fu. (via Yahoo)

Director: Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer)
Writers: Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer), Tsang Kan Cheong, Xin Huo (Shower), Chan Man Keung
Stars: Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer), Wah Yuen (Supercop), Qiu Yuen, Kwok Kuen Chan (Shaolin Soccer), Hsiao Liang (Legend of a Fighter), Zhi Hua Dong

Useless Trivia: The actors who played the landlord and landlady both had bit parts in recognizable 70s movies. Wah Yuen was an uncredited tournament fighter in Enter the Dragon. Qui Yuen also had an uncredited role in the Bond flick, The Man With the Golden Gun.


Cavan blogged at 11:24 PM | 2 comments


- Control Room

This very interesting documentary takes a look at the presentation of the Iraq war in the media, particularly on the Al Jazeera station. Frankly, I thought that this movie took a much more even-handed approach than Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 which was, in all fairness, a subpar movie (and that remark has nothing to do with politics by the way - I'm about as liberal as it gets). The most interesting scenes occur in cafes, when the camera pans around to different Iraqis as they watch the news and discuss the impending war. It's a breath of fresh air to get a perspective from the region that hasn't necessarily been "rubber-stamped" by the American media. Find this one if you can. My grade: B+

Synopsis: A chronicle which provides a rare window into the international perception of the Iraq War, courtesy of Al Jazeera, the Arab world's most popular news outlet. Roundly criticized by Cabinet members and Pentagon officials for reporting with a pro-Iraqi bias, and strongly condemned for frequently airing civilian causalities as well as footage of American POWs, the station has revealed (and continues to show the world) everything about the Iraq War that the Bush administration did not want it to see. (via Imdb)

Director: Jehane Noujaim (Startup.com)


Cavan blogged at 6:41 AM | 1 comments


Sunday, August 28, 2005 - POD: What It Should Have Been

Via POD-dy Mouth, I read in NY Times Bestselling Author P.J. Parrish's blog why she hates POD.

"I hate the way they prey on dreamers. I hate the way they overinflate expectations. But what I really hate is that they make it possible for people to think there are shortcuts, ways of circumventing the craft, hard work and legitimate editorial process of becoming a writer."

Well said. And it's the truth. I imagine that the majority of people who publish POD believe that all it'll take is a few review copies to send their books to the top of the sales charts. I know that the majority of people who publish POD couldn't string together a decent sentence to save their lives.

To toot my own horn, let me take a few excerpts from the Apodis Publishing website:

"...most writers who publish with a subsidy press never recoup their initial investment and end up failing to sell their books to anyone beyond friends and family."

"Unlike some other subsidy presses, we'll actually read your novel. If it doesn't make the grade, it won't be published."

So, there you have it. A POD company can offer realistic expectations and a promise to publish only works by those who are serious about the craft.

What I'm getting at, beyond blatant self-promotion, is a fundamental problem in how the industry has marketed itself from the beginning. POD has always been the alternative to those nasty, money-grubbing traditional houses. That's why you've probably seen phrases like "revolutionary new publishing model" or "industry-wide paradigm shift" plastered across POD websites. Well, the truth is, traditional houses put a good deal of quality work into finding good stories and I think we all know which of the two sides is more money-grubbing.

Instead of trying to promote themselves as an alternative, I think the POD companies should have gone for an "indie" type of label. I mean, indie filmmakers and musicians plug thousands of dollars into releasing their own products and get nothing but respect for it. Of course, more often than not, they're often good.

It seems to me, that if a writer shells out money for professional editing, cover design and production, they should fit into this category. Of course, the path has been made and we're too far down it to go back now, so what to do? Go back to the old-school subsidy presses where one had to finance a print run of a couple thousand books and sell them out of a garage? Well, no. That'd be ridiculous.

Here is my dream for the POD industry: First, the return of the backlist. Too many great books have been allowed to go out of print. Second, they serve as a "stepping stone" for the writer who, thanks to the fact that the traditional houses they submitted to just published a similar book, can't fit the book into a marketing niche, or had another manuscript that was just slightly better, can't seem to get published.

It's clear, however, that there are talented writers out there who have gone POD. I've already come into contact with a number of them. Frankly, my hat is off to them. Unfortunately, most people will never hear of them, thanks to the fact that, instead of investing in their authors, most POD companies are content to swim in piles of money.


Cavan blogged at 10:06 PM | 2 comments


- Weekly Music

Young Heart Attack

Who are they?: A 70s-influenced hard rock band, along the lines of The Darkness and Jet. Unlike those two bands, however, YHA never bothers to let up for a ballad. Their album, Mouthful of Love, is hard rock from end to end. The band has two vocalists - Chris Hodge, who can't do much but scream and Jennifer Stephens, who has a great voice.
4 Songs: "Starlite" and "Sick of Doing Time" (one of my personal hard rock faves) show the band in its element. "Misty Rowe" takes things down a notch, though not by much. "Tommy Shots" is another fun tune best played with the volume on high.

To play, press ZAP. Press it again to skip songs.


Cavan blogged at 11:46 AM | 0 comments


Saturday, August 27, 2005 - No Read of the Week

Depending on the amount of drugs in my system, I've spent the week in either a lot of pain or an extreme state of drowsiness. Neither are very conducive to getting any reading done. Therefore, no RotW.

P.S. The swelling is finally starting to go down and I'm now taking only one pain pill per dose, so hopefully that means it'll all be over in a few days and I can start posting on a regular basis again.


Cavan blogged at 6:01 PM | 1 comments


Friday, August 26, 2005 - Akira

It may well have been all the painkillers I was on when I was watching this film, but something tells me that the entire plotline was mostly incomprehensible. As with some other anime I've watched, I think I only understand about half of what went on at the end. Still, the movie has an unbelievably cool premise and simply astonishing animation. My grade: B

Synopsis: Kaneda is a bike gang leader whose close friend Tetsuo gets involved in a government secret project knowned as Akira. On his way to save Tetsuo, Kaneda runs into a group of anti-government activist, greedy politicians, irresponsible scientists and a powerful military leader. The confrontation sparks off Tetsuo's supernatural power leading to bloody death, a coup attempt and the final battle in Tokyo Olympiad where Akira's secrets were buried 30 years ago. (via Imdb)

Director: Katsuhiro Otomo (Steamboy)
Writers: Katsuhiro Otomo (Metropolis) and Izo Hashimoto
Stars: Voices of Mitsuo Iwata ("Initial D"), Nozomu Sasaki (Samurai X: Trust), Mami Koyama (Millennium Actress), Tatsuhiko Nakamura, Fukue Ito, Taro Ishida (Metropolis)

Useless Trivia: At one point in the 1990s, Sony contemplated a live-action version of the film, but scrapped the idea when the projected budget went north of US$300 million.


Cavan blogged at 11:44 AM | 7 comments


Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - Scalzi on Shorts

I recently posted about Amazon Shorts. Leave it to John Scalzi (and his band of intelligent commenters), of course, to shed some light on things. Read his post.


Cavan blogged at 2:42 PM | 0 comments


- Saved!

Poor Jena Malone - for someone so young, she's a terrific actress. Yet, everything she's shone in (this film, Donnie Darko, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys, The United States of Leland) casts her as the good/troubled girl. I wonder what'll become of her as she grows older and out of this role. The young cast of this film turns in good performances - Moore is perfect as "Bible thumper" Hilary Faye and manages, towards the end, to cast her character in a somewhat more sympathetic light. Culkin, in one of his first movie roles as an adult, impresses, though not a whole lot is asked of him. It's Eve Amurri (Susan Sarandon's daughter) who stands out in this movie as social outcast Cassandra. Beyond the acting, the movie delivers a good message and is sure to be enjoyed by non-religious types as well as Christians (the non-militant kind, at least). In fact, I think the movie is best summed up in a scene where Hilary Faye screams "I am filled with Christlove!" and throws a Bible at Malone's character, the pregnant Mary, who returns the Bible, saying "This is not a weapon." My grade: B

Synopsis: "Good girl" Mary and her popular, influential best friend, Hilary Faye, are starting their senior year at the top of the social structure at American Christian High School. But when Mary finds out she’s pregnant, Hilary Faye and her devoted "disciples" turn against Mary and the school labels her an outcast. It's as an outsider, however, that Mary finds true friends – other students the school doesn't quite know what to do with. In this sweetly subversive comedy, a group of strangers band together to navigate the treacherous halls of high school and make it to graduation, ultimately learning more about themselves and finding out what it truly means to be Saved! (via Yahoo)

Director: Brian Dannelly ("Weeds")
Writers: Brian Dannelly and Michael Urban
Stars: Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Mandy Moore (A Walk To Remember), Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone), Eve Amurri (The Banger Sisters), Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), Martin Donovan (The United States of Leland), Mary-Louise Parker ("Angels in America")

Useless Trivia: As Pastor Skip enters the school library to talk to Hilary Faye and the Christian Jewels about Mary, there is a READ poster featuring R.E.M. visible over his shoulder. Michael Stipe is the lead singer of R.E.M. and also co-produced the film.


Cavan blogged at 2:30 PM | 0 comments


Tuesday, August 23, 2005 - Open Thread #2

In a few hours I'll be having my wisdom teeth out, so I don't plan on being lucid enough to post for the next day or two. Mmm....drugs.

Any horror stories? Talk amongst yourselves.


Cavan blogged at 9:57 AM | 0 comments


Monday, August 22, 2005 - The Ultimate Blog Exchange Experiment

Can $130 US make your blog forever popular?

Well, that's what I'm going to find out. I signed up at BlogExplosion months ago and surf it on a relatively regular basis. I've even used their "purchase credits" feature to direct some traffic to the blog. Now, I'm going to go the whole nine yards and, for $130, purchase 25,000 credits, which will equal 25,000 hits from BE surfers.

So, how will I be measuring my popularity in the Blogosphere?
  • Page Hits
  • Comment Volumes
  • Google
  • Technorati
  • Emails from blog visitors

On a regular basis (not sure whether it'll be monthly or weekly yet), I'll be comparing these stats versus my pre-experiment stats. In the interest of keeping my control group as pure as possible (since it seems to me that this post itself could spawn some interest) I've decided to do this now, rather than right before I start the experiment. So, here are the numbers for the Blurred Line Blog:

Page Hits: 40.58 per day (seven day average from Aug. 15 to Aug. 21)
Page Hits (Peak Period*): 90.57 per day (seven day average from Jul. 26 to Aug. 1)
Unique Visitors: 32.71 per day (avg from 08/15 to 08/21)
Unique Visitors (Peak Period): 72 per day (avg from 07/26 to 08/01)
Comment Volume: 1.29 per day (avg from 08/15 to 08/21)
Comment Volume (Peak Period): 1 per day (avg from 07/26 to 08/01)
*Note: This peak period is only the highest since I switched to StatCounter, since my old Bravenet hit counter doesn't go further back than a week.
Google: 25 relevant results, 631 total ("Blurred Line Blog)
Google: 22 relevant results, 24 total (www.blurredline.com/blog)
Technorati: 9 links (www.blurredline.com/blog)
Technorati: 5 links ("The Blurred Line Blog")
Emails: 0. Not one. Ever.

I'm hoping that, given the nature of the blogosphere (what with all the blogrolling and such), the popularity of this blog (however temporary it may be) will filter out beyond BE sites.

Coming September 2005.



Cavan blogged at 12:01 PM | 9 comments


Sunday, August 21, 2005 - Rejection #2

Another rejection letter for "Between Eternities" today, this one from Futurismic. However, it was another one of those "good" rejections (insofar as it can actually be a good thing - which isn't much, but it's better than nothing). I'm told the writing is effective and the concept is interesting, but the plot doesn't quite work.

Off to look for more markets that offer hefty three figure payments.


Cavan blogged at 10:06 PM | 1 comments


- Amazon Shorts

Discovered this program via Lee's blog. Amazon is going to be publishing short works and offering them as 49 cent downloads. Amazon Shorts seems a pretty interesting idea, especially since most people out there don't read short stories. Personally, I'm a fan of the short story format and, if nothing else, I'm pleased that this will give people the opportunity to be exposed to that genre.

The interesting part, though, is that authors will be able to submit their own work to the program. The Author FAQ notes that you have to be "accepted" into the program, and I think it's Amazon's definition of this word that the success of the program hinges on. If "acceptance" is merely a formality (ie. the content of the stories are not evaluated) I think it'll simply become another form of vanity publishing. However, if the stories will indeed be accepted only on the basis of merit, then I think Amazon Shorts will be a huge success. If I had the cash, I'd buy up issues of On Spec, Neo-Opsis, Asimov's and a ton of other literary SF print magazines. Unfortunately, I don't, so I'm limited to reading webzines like Strange Horizons. I don't mean to knock SH - they're great - but the problem is that, due to financial issues, I simply can't read as many short stories as I'd like to. However, if I can scan the list of writers who are published in an issue of On Spec, for example, I could simply grab some of their work off Amazon for half a buck.

I'll be keeping an eye out for developments.


Cavan blogged at 10:32 AM | 0 comments


Saturday, August 20, 2005 - Radio Blog

You might have noticed that little rectangular boxy thing next on the left of your screen...if you have eyes and all that. Anyhow, that happens to be a handy little app called Radio Blog. For a while, I've been looking for a way to play music on this site without the visitor having to download anything. Additionally, I didn't want anything that would start playing music without a prompt from the visitor, because I know I like to listen to my own music when surfing blogs. I used to have a link to my Launchcast station, but that required you to a) have a Yahoo user ID and b) navigate off-site. Well, along comes Radio Blog to solve all my problems. It took me a while to set up, since it runs on PHP, which Blogger doesn't support. Fortunately, there's a way around that obstacle.

Anyhow, here's what all this boils down to: A new weekly feature, that'll run on Sundays, showcasing some cool music. That's right - the weekends are a pretty fearsome one-two punch now, what with the Read of the Week on Saturdays. However, I'm going to premiere the inaugural version of Weekly Music right now, since I've been fiddling around with this thing for a couple hours and have no interest in delaying gratification...

Bloc Party
Who are they?: One of those art-punk bands that seem to be coming out of the woodwork these days. I imagine that if The Cure had started making music in the early days of the 21st century, they'd sound a lot like Bloc Party. I picked up their debut album, Silent Alarm, after hearing the band compared to Franz Ferdinand.
4 Songs: "Banquet" and "Helicopter" are representative of many of the songs off their album, with catchy guitar riffs, great drumming and repetitive lyrics. "She's Hearing Voices", which I think was their first single, follows a similar route and rocks out towards the end. "This Modern Love" scales things back a bit for a (relatively) low-key love song.

To play, press ZAP. Press it again to skip songs.


Cavan blogged at 5:11 PM | 0 comments


- SF Read of the Week

Killing newbies who were trying to cheat the system seemed like a good way to make a buck. But in this simulated reality, who is scamming whom?

In the spirit of yesterday's post, I present to you Cory Doctorow's "Anda's Game". It's a rather long read, so you might want to do it in a couple of sittings.


Cavan blogged at 4:03 PM | 0 comments


Friday, August 19, 2005 - E-Sweatshops?

This article, about slave wage workers in MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, for the uninitiated) is one of the most interesting I've read in a while. Apparently, trading in-game credits for real-life cash is big business these days, and the people at the top are employing a small army of workers to raise that virtual money.

For whatever reason, I find this idea unbelievably fascinating, and have been planning to work it into my writing for some time. In fact, "The (Untitled) Regular's Story" again, a short story/novelette about The Regular's life before the events of Blurred Line, focuses on elements quite similar to those that appear in the article. With any luck, I'll get around to working on it again sometime in the near future (and by near, I mean...you know...ever).


Cavan blogged at 11:19 PM | 1 comments


- License To Drive

No - not the movie, which I have seen, unfortunately. I managed to get my driver's license today (my full one - no more stage two learner's permit). I'd go joyriding if the novelty hadn't worn off 30,000 kilometers ago.

As some of you know, the whole thing was a bit of an ordeal for me. Last time I went, I had a tail light out, so I couldn't take the test. The first time I had an automatic fail due to incorrect merging on the highway. Unfortunately, we weren't on the city's main highway, the Queensway, we were on some backwoods two-laner that I thought was just another road - and the instructor didn't let me know that it was, in fact, the highway.

Oh well...



Cavan blogged at 4:18 PM | 1 comments


Thursday, August 18, 2005 - State of the Blog Address

One year, four months on (including the Bravenet days), I've been thinking that this blog might be getting a little stale. This isn't to say I don't enjoy writing in it - I do, as much as I ever have, but it seems to me that, essentially, it's become a book and movie review site with the occasional remark about publishing and writing. Not that that's bad, but I'd like to expand my horizons a little bit.

So, starting in September, I've decided to have a monthly theme for the blog. I have a few ideas already, but I imagine that anyone out there who reads this could probably come up with some, too.

What would you like to see as a monthly theme? Go crazy.


Cavan blogged at 7:04 AM | 2 comments


Tuesday, August 16, 2005 - The Kite Runner

This story has been one of those "it" books that everyone has been reading. It looked interesting, so I thought I'd give it a try.

It seems an oversimplification to call The Kite Runner an Afghan Atonement. Nonetheless, there are a number of similarities concerning the beginning of the story that I'd like to point out. In both, the reader is presented with the a main character who happens to be a precocious child with a flair for the written word. Both children witness a rape, lie about it, and spend the rest of their lives trying to redeem themselves.

Hosseini's writing ability, on a sentence-to-sentence level, doesn't hold up to that of McEwan's. However, he manages to push all the right emotional buttons of the reader, and that's what I think accounts for this book's staggering popularity. Also, Afghanistan being in the news probably hasn't hurt sales. And, if any book is going to prosper from a war, I'm glad it was this one, as Hosseini's sympathetic portrayal of Afghan life has, with any luck, prompted a few ignorant North Americans to tone down the racism, at the very least.

In my opinion, it's a good, solid read, but it's not spectacular. If you haven't read Ian McEwan's Atonement, and enjoyed this novel, I would most certainly recomment checking it out. If you have, here's the link for The Kite Runner.

Additionally, there are some preliminary reports that the novel will be made into a movie, to be released sometime in 2006. American Beauty director Sam Mendes is reportedly attached to the project, as is 25th Hour screenwriter David Benioff.


Cavan blogged at 5:58 PM | 1 comments


Monday, August 15, 2005 - Authors Auction Character Names

Sixteen big-name authors, including Stephen King, John Grisham and Neil Gaiman, will be using eBay to auction off the rights to name characters, settings or other miscellany in their upcoming novels.

Read the full article.

Strangely enough, this isn't the first time this has happened. I wish for the life of me I could remember the name of a writer, but I remember about a year ago hearing of a science-fiction author who was with an ebook/POD (non-subsidy) publisher and made about three hundred bucks.

So, if someone of that stature can make a few dollars, I'm frightened of what the bids are going to be on guys like King and Grisham (not to mention all those rabid Gaiman fanboys out there).

Want to know what I'm most frightened of, though? The absolute certainty that a ton of POD writers (savvy marketers that we are) are going to jump on the bandwagon and auction off their own character names, making these auctions a dime a dozen.


Cavan blogged at 8:58 PM | 3 comments


- Some Quality Writing Time

I'm going to devote today, I've decided, entirely to working on Glistening Edges and Right Angles. With any luck, I can get a thousand, maybe even two thousand words. Actually, I can't even remember the last time I spent more than two consecutive hours writing - it was probably back in high school.

This eventually started me thinking about something an old writer acquaintance (we were barely acquainted, really - I knew him through an online writer's group) of mine once said. He was primarily a science fiction writer, but his best-selling piece was erotica. Anyhow, he once remarked to the group that if you didn't write for eight hours a day, you weren't a real writer at all.

At sixteen, I half-believed him, but it still seemed something of an outrageous idea. Now, I'm trying to figure what he must have been on to believe something so ridiculous. Most writers out there have day jobs, so they can't write for eight hours a day (unless they have no family, no social life, and no desire to do anything but work, write and sleep).

However, here's another piece of advice I've been given: Writers write. It seems obvious, but I've come across a number of people who call themselves writers, but never seem to produce anything, instead choosing to read books on writing and participate in writer's discussion groups.

It seems to me, then, that there is some dividing line between writers and people who are just calling themselves writers. I mean, if you say you're a writer, but only have one short story to show for five years of work, you're not a writer, you're just someone who wrote something once.

So, where is this dividing line? Thoughts, anyone?


Cavan blogged at 11:12 AM | 1 comments


Sunday, August 14, 2005 - Scarface

Another movie that fell through the cracks for me. I'm glad I finally got around to watching it, as its eclipsed Goodfellas as my favourite gangster movie. My grade: A-

Synopsis: Remake of the 1932 film, which follows the rise of Tony Montana, a Cuban emigre who, with his friend Manny Ray, builds a strong criminal empire in early 1980's Miami. (via Imdb)

Director: Brian De Palma (The Untouchables)
Writer: Oliver Stone (Platoon) based on the novel by Armitage Trail
Stars: Al Pacino (Dog Day Afternoon), Steven Bauer (Primal Fear), Michelle Pfeiffer (White Oleander), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss), Robert Loggia (An Officer and a Gentleman), Paul Shenar (The Big Blue)

Useless Trivia: In one shot, a then 14 year old Brett Ratner is seen lying on a raft in a pool. Ratner is the director of the Rush Hour movies, as well as the Hannibal Lecter film, Red Dragon.


Cavan blogged at 7:52 PM | 0 comments


Saturday, August 13, 2005 - SF Read of the Week

The man in the trench coat offered Scotty one hundred dollars and a copy of Neutrino Kid number six for the painted horses that haunted his sleep and nipped at his soul.

After last week's story, I spent some time browsing the Fortean Bureau archives - I've never visited that site on a regular basis before, so I was pleasantly surprised. This story was one of my favourites of the bunch. Perfect if clowns and creepy fairs scare the crap out of you.

"Carousel Safari" by Paul Melko.


Cavan blogged at 2:24 PM | 0 comments


- Army of Darkness

This is one of those movies I've always wanted to watch but, somehow, I didn't manage to get around to seeing it until now. It was about what I expected. Hilarious one-liners and a lot of camp. My grade: B+

Synopsis: Unassuming store clerk Ash is time-warped into England's Dark Ages, where he must find the Necronomicon, a compendium of the black arts, before he can return home. Fortunately, he has time to romance a beautiful princess and battle an army of skeletons. (via Yahoo)

Director: Sam Raimi (Spider-Man)
Writers: Sam Raimi (The Hudsucker Proxy) and Ivan Raimi (Darkman)
Stars: Bruce Campbell (Bubba Ho-tep), Embeth Davidtz (Schindler's List), Marcus Gilbert (Rambo III), Ian Abercrombie (Firewalker)
Cameo: Bridget Fonda (Point of No Return)

Useless Trivia: The Oldsmobile that goes through time with Bruce Campbell belongs to director Sam Raimi. He included it in many of his early movies, each time more banged-up than the last.


Cavan blogged at 6:45 AM | 0 comments


Thursday, August 11, 2005 - Rejection #1

An email came from Strange Horizons today and, you guessed it, a rejection of "Between Eternities". I did get a personalized rejection, which means the editor thought my story was, at the very least, decent.

As a result, I've decided to take a positive stance and be happy that a pro-level market like Strange Horizons actually saw fit to seriously consider my work. The editor noted that it was an "engaging read" but that it "never came together as a whole". For this story, that seems to be a common complaint. Unfortunately, about half the people who read it seemed to think everything was perfect as is, and the other half thought there was something missing. I'm of the former mind, obviously, but after a few more rejections, maybe I'll be singing a different tune.

Oh well, it's off to the next market.


Cavan blogged at 11:31 PM | 4 comments


- POD Success Story

When I talk about success as a print-on-demand author, I don't mean being able to sell 10,000 copies of your book. That is a success, of course, but it's rather difficult to achieve, what with the roadblocks present in marketing print-on-demand books. The kind of success I mean is, because of the fact that your book made it to market, it was noticed by the right person at the right time, and you wind up with, at the very least a chance to talk to an agent and/or publisher and (at the most) get yourself a fancy New York publishing contract.

Over at POD-dy Mouth, there's an interview with Natalie R. Collins, who published her novel, SisterWife, with Booklocker in 2001, sold 400 copies, got noticed and now has a contract with St. Martin's Press.

When asked if she thought POD had anything to do with where she is today, Collins replies: No, without POD I would not be here. It's because of SISTERWIFE, and the route I took, that my editor noticed me and asked for something else I'd written.

So, people, there is hope. Read the entire interview here.



Cavan blogged at 6:47 AM | 0 comments


- Ach!-ademia

I wrote my final exam for Utopian Lit last night, meaning that another year of (increasingly) irritating academia is over and done with.

Now, for three glorious weeks of holiday, during which I plan to...uh...er...work.


Cavan blogged at 6:45 AM | 0 comments


- Bullets Over Broadway

Yep - I'm back on my Woody Allen kick again. This one is widely considered one of his better "late" films, but it didn't really do much for me - maybe because Woody wasn't in it. Anyhow, it was a decent flick with quality acting, but the one-liners, back-and-forth banter and neuroses I expected from an Allen film just weren't there. My grade: B-

Synopsis: David Shayne is an idealistic young playwright whose life (and play) is about to be turned upside down as it heads toward Broadway. In order to gain financing for GOD OF OUR FATHERS, Shayne agrees to hire Olive Neal, the actress/girlfriend of Nick Valenti, a potential backer--who also happens to be a gangster. Unfortunately, the lass proves to be not only talent-free but ditzy to boot, a hindrance since she is supposed to play a psychiatrist. But Cheech, Olive's hoodlum bodyguard, proves to be more intuitive artistically than anyone would suspect, as his contributions improve not only Olive's performance but the quality of the flailing play as well. Meanwhile, Shayne must contend with an odd assortment of actors, including the neurotic Eden Brent, with her omnipresent, yapping dog; the pompous Warner Purcell, a corset-wearing overeater; and haughty leading lady Helen Sinclair, the aging, boozing diva with whom Shayne begins a romance. (via Yahoo)

Director: Woody Allen (Deconstructing Harry)
Writers: Woody Allen (Crimes and Misdemeanors) and Douglas McGrath (Emma)
Stars: John Cusack (Say Anything), Chazz Palminteri (A Bronx Tale), Dianne Wiest (Edward Scissorhands), Jennifer Tilly (Liar Liar), Jack Warden (While You Were Sleeping), Joe Viterelli (Analyze This), Jim Broadbent (Gangs of New York), Tracey Ullman (A Dirty Shame), Mary-Louise Parker (Red Dragon), Rob Reiner (Edtv)

Useless Trivia: During the scene when the mobsters are at the funeral, a number of headstones are shown. One displays the name "Sorice", the last name of the movie's Master Scenic Artist, Jim Sorice, who has worked on many Woody Allen movies.


Cavan blogged at 12:14 AM | 0 comments


Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - Picture Stamps

After seeing Dave's post about ordering customized stamps, I became irrationally excited, because...well...the thought of customizing stamps is downright cool. Well, at least I think so.

Anyhow, this would be a really cool way to market books, but probably not very cost effective, since the stamps are a little on the pricey side.

I'd get stamps with my picture on them, too, if it didn't feel so narcissistic. Then again, I'd look totally bitchin on a stamp!

In the USA: Stamps.com and click on the PhotoStamps tab.

In Canada: www.picturepostage.ca

Elsewhere: Look into it, people!


Cavan blogged at 8:41 PM | 1 comments


Tuesday, August 09, 2005 - Glamorama

Yep, it's another great book I've read that I just have to remark on. Anyone who knows my reading/movie watching habits is probably aware that I love a little bit of the surreal - anything that takes me away from the ordinary. With Glamorama, Bret Easton Ellis (who I've wanted to read for years, after watching the film adaptation of The Rules of Attraction back in high school) definitely serves that up.

The book starts out as an exploration of a male model's life then, seemingly out of nowhere, turns into a hellish political thriller that spirals further and further out of control until you're not sure if anything that's happened during the entire novel is real or imagined. Definitely check this one out.

Warning: Not for the squeamish - contains the most graphic sex scenes I've ever read and a massive helping of brutal violence.


Cavan blogged at 6:04 PM | 2 comments


Monday, August 08, 2005 - POD - The Quality Question

Over at the WBA, John put a question to me concerning the quality of print-on-demand books - not only the quality of content, but the physical quality and (if I get his meaning) quality of service (ie. speed, customer service, etc.)

On quality of content: I've gone over this before, since it's the biggest hindrance to the POD market ever really taking off. The fact is, unfortunately, that most self-published books flat-out stink. Therefore, manuscript screening is an absolute must (plug, plug, Apodis...though Llumina also screens for quality).

On physical quality: I've never had a complaint. Although I've heard some horror stories from authors who've received books with pools of ink splashed across pages, or faded printing, I assume this is something that isn't specific to POD printing. In my personal experience, all the books I've ever ordered (a number of boxes of my own book and a few copies of those by other authors) have been produced to a standard of quality equal to traditionally published books (of course, I'm still a little bitter that LSI doesn't produce matte paperbacks, which I think look a lot better than glossy). The books that do have flaws in their physical quality usually have the author and publisher to thank, not the printer. For example, authors sometimes submit cover art files with less than a 300 dpi resolution. The publisher won't check it (as most don't bother ordering proof copies...though Apodis does, plug, plug) and, as a result, when the author gets the first shipment of their book, it's a generally negative experience. The other thing I've seen that results in poor physical quality is when the publisher does a half-hearted job of typesetting. Generally, this means that they justify all text and don't bother with any hyphens, thereby creating a book that looks extremely amateurish. The moral of the story: If you're the author of a POD book, automatically assume that these things are your responsibility. Make sure your cover art conforms to the required specifications - your publisher probably won't tell you if it doesn't. When you get your proof, don't skim, check everything.

On availability: John asks specifically about the length of time it takes to get on Amazon. Well, most POD publishers use LSI (that's Lightning Source, by the way) to print their books. LSI is owned by Ingram, which is the biggest distributor in the US. So, when your book is setup with them, it automatically goes into their distribution catalogue (provided you've signed up for distribution). From there, it's just a matter of when Amazon.com, or barnesandnoble.com, or all the various other online booksellers update their catalogue, which most do every few weeks. For example, when I published with PageFree, it took about five days for Blurred Line to show up on Amazon. When I re-published with Apodis, BL showed up on barnesandnoble.com almost immediately, but didn't show up on Amazon for two weeks. If you're using Booksurge, which is owned by Amazon, there's no difference (as far as I know - a book I beta read for was just published with Booksurge and took about a week to show up on Amazon). Another issue that plagued the industry until recently, was the availability (ie. shipping times) once a book had shown up on Amazon. Generally, one copy would be stocked at a time so, as soon as that one copy was sold, shipping times would drop from "24 hours" to "2-3 weeks" making it near impossible to sell books from one online retailer on a regular basis. However, earlier this year, both LSI and Ingram rectified the problem and now most POD books have a shipping time of "24 hours" no matter how many copies are in stock.

On customer service: The quality of customer service can range from good (iUniverse) to moderate (PageFree) to nonexistent (PublishAmerica, Authorhouse). The big thing to watch out for is pressure before you sign a contract. Many companies are very responsive up until the point you sign with them and, after that, their customer service departments seem to fall off the face of the earth. Since this ranges wildly from company to company, make sure to do your research.

On...er...not ripping people off: I would be remiss, I think, if I didn't mention something about book pricing. John asks specifically about Booksurge, a company which scares me not only because it has one of the worst reputations of any POD company (before it was acquired by Amazon, anyway), but because of the retail prices they charge for some of their books (which I'll admit, vary wildly on a price per page basis). Consider this, this, and this. Likewise, at Xlbris, consider this, this and this. These prices are, to put it simply, criminal. Although these are the worst offenders, it's something that afflicts most companies out there. When I republished Blurred Line with Apodis, I was able to set the retail price to $9.95 US and still make a profit (the book is 172 pages). Additionally, that prices takes into account the standard 55% bookseller discount, while other companies such as iUniverse don't even allow to give more than a 30% discount. What this means is that BL will eventually be discounted a further 20% off that $9.95. Sometimes, this is a result of companies artificially inflating retail prices, sometimes it's a result of authors being greedy and wanting to make $5 per book. Either way, it's turning into another large drawback for the POD industry.

So...any other questions?


Cavan blogged at 9:41 AM | 3 comments


Sunday, August 07, 2005 - Writing Update

GERA: Crept past 2000 words today - I know it doesn't seem like much, but it's not often I get the chance to sit down and write these days. Anyhow, I'm now about halfway through the first chapter and, for reference, the total length of this chapter in the first draft of GERA was 1500 words. The implication, I suppose, will be that the novel won't be quite as jumpy as Blurred Line was.

Columns: I briefly mentioned my "Your Story Sucks!" writing columns a while back. Well, the first two issues have now been completed and sent off to Fictionpress for evaluation. Hopefully, everything will work out, but I have absolutely no idea when they'll get back to me.

"Between Eternities": Still at Strange Horizons. However, it's been there for six weeks now, which is a little longer than their average response time. I plan to be deluded and tell myself that this is because they're giving it serious consideration.

Apodis Anthologies: Stories are still coming in, albeit at a vastly reduced rate. I've decided to simply produce one anthology, rather than three, because I think it'd take forever to find enough suitable submissions to fill three books.


Cavan blogged at 3:15 PM | 0 comments


- Writer's Blog Alliance

A quick shout out for the WBA, which is an attempt to bring together the blogs of writers in order to create a Boing Boing type superblog (I wonder if we could get Cory Doctorow to defect?).

Anyhow, if you're a writer who blogs (and what self-respecting writer doesn't these days?) be sure to check it out.


Cavan blogged at 11:58 AM | 3 comments


Saturday, August 06, 2005 - The United States of Leland

For whatever reason, this movie was roundly panned by the critics. I thought, however, that the acting was brilliant and even though the screenplay didn't really come to any real depth and meaning - well, if you watched the movie, that was really the whole point, wasn't it? After this and his stunning performance in The Believer, Ryan Gosling is making a big fan out of me. Highly recommended. My grade: A-

Synopsis: Soft-spoken 15-year old Leland Fitzgerald commits a seemingly senseless murder that shocks his community, affecting both his victim's family and his own. Arrested and imprisoned in a juvenile detention facility, Leland comes in contact with an aspiring writer and prison teacher, Pearl Madison. As Pearl delves into the mystery of Leland's crime, he also sees the chance for a career-making book as the boy's estranged father is the world-renowned author, Albert Fitzgerald. (via Imdb)

Writer and Director: Matthew Ryan Hoge
Stars: Ryan Gosling (The Notebook), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Chris Klein (American Pie), Kevin Spacey (American Beauty), Jena Malone (Donnie Darko), Michelle Williams ("Dawson's Creek"), Lena Olin (Chocolat), Martin Donovan (Saved!), Ann Magnuson (Panic Room)


Cavan blogged at 3:08 PM | 0 comments


- The Lyttle Lyton Contest

Teresa, over at Making Light, has issues with the Bulwer Lytton contest, asserting (and she's quite right) that the entries are generally well-written, it's just that they utilize utterly ridiculous metaphors.

Instead, she says (and we must listen because she's an editor at Tor books, thereby making her tantamount to God in the SF writer's universe), to check out the Lyttle Lyton Contest for truly bad sentences.

I enjoyed the following:

It was just like Jack The Ripper, only, this time, Jack was a she, and possibly some form of time-traveller.

The dame had balls, you had to give her that, and a Jetta.

Juicy, their love was like forbidden fruit: tasty.

We write the year 2347, a world abound with nuclear alacrity, when suddenly Frank enters with a smile.


Cavan blogged at 11:17 AM | 0 comments


- SF Read of the Week

She looked at the clock and thought of Devon. Remembered him, though he hadn't happened yet—how he almost didn't happen; how she lost her nerve and decided to just give up the child when it was born. How she changed her mind in a moment on the porch swing at her grandmother's, looking down at her waxing body and felt him there and knew him.

A somewhat disturbing story on knowing what the future holds. This week's RotW is Chelsea Polk's "If One Should Pass This Way Again" at Fortean Bureau.



Cavan blogged at 11:00 AM | 0 comments


- Super Size Me

A fairly well-done documentary. Granted, we're not really being told anything we didn't already know (McDonald's isn't just bad for you...it's really bad for you). However, Spurlock keeps things entertaining. My grade: B+

Synopsis: Morgan Spurlock documents his month of eating nothing but McDonald's food. He has to try everything on the menu at least once, and he must super-size his order if asked. (via Yahoo)

Director: Morgan Spurlock


Cavan blogged at 10:36 AM | 1 comments


Thursday, August 04, 2005 - Gay Celebrity Love Child

Or, so I've been told. And not by just one crazy person. Apparently, I'm the living, breathing embodiment of both Jude Law and Napoleon Dynamite.

Consequently, I think using the name Dynamite Law is reason enough to start whoring myself out on weekends.

Here's how I figure my real birth parents met...

Jude: I'm so depressed. I just cheated on my really hot fiancee with my housekeeper and now she's broken up with me.
Napoleon: You decroded piece of crap!
Jude: I know. I feel awful. Want a drink? (Hails bartender)
Napoleon: Heck yes!
Jude: What'll you have?
Napoleon: Whatever I feel like I wanna have. Gosh!
Jude: So...umm...I was in that remake of Alfie. Did you see that one?
Napoleon: That was pretty much the worst video ever made.
Jude: Like you could even know that. Besides, I made eight million dollars doing it.
Napoleon: I could make that much money in five seconds!
Jude: Right...well...ummm...(cocks eyebrows, smiles deviously) So, I'm feeling a bit vulnerable and lonely lately. Like to come see my apartment?
Napoleon: (hesitates) So, we're pretty much friends by now, right?
Jude: What? (smiling deviously again) Oh, right, sure, whatever you want, baby.
Napoleon: So, you got my back and everything, right?
Jude: Well, I definitely will.


Cavan blogged at 6:51 PM | 2 comments


- Mmmm....Sleep

Just woke up from about ten hours of sleep, which was nice, considering the fact that I felt like a zombie for pretty much all of yesterday. Somehow, I made it through eight hours of work and then an hour of class (my last one of the summer, by the way). On the upside, though, my essay has been turned in (it came out pretty well, I thought) and I can relax.

My spirits have been lifted for another reason - I won all three of those auctions I mentioned on eBay. Turns out I won a bunch of hockey cards (two of the auctions were for a single card, the other for a lot of thirty) that are worth a total of $104 CDN. What did I pay? Well, including shipping: $13.17 CDN. So, even if I were to turn around and sell them all at half of what they're worth, I'd still clear enough cash to, say, go out for a semi-fancy dinner with my girlfriend, or a non-fancy dinner and a movie, or three fast food dinners and two rented movies. Do I see "eBay Guru" in my future? I think so.


Cavan blogged at 6:31 AM | 0 comments


Wednesday, August 03, 2005 - Summer All-Nighter

Once a summer, I end up pulling an all-nighter. The past few years, it's been because I wanted to go out with friends and, because I have to get up at six for work, I'd just stay up instead of hitting the sack at around three in the morning. This year, I'm doing it because of an essay. I guess that goes to show how wild my summer's been, huh?

Anyway, I finished my essay over two hours ago, so I've just been kicking around for a while. Since I now have about an hour before I have to "get up", I thought I'd make a list of things to do when you're pulling a solitary all-nighter.
  • Drink caffeine based beverages - a no brainer, really. I've been drinking Nescafe French Vanilla Ice Java. It goes down smooth.
  • Catch up on your reading - I read a little bit of Bret Easton Ellis' Glamorama. It's fantastic so far...this summer has been chalk full of great reads for me.
  • Surf Ebay - To celebrate the return of the NHL, I was browsing the hockey cards (I was a big time collector as a kid). I bid two bucks each on a pair of cards that are worth $25 a piece.
  • Play games on your phone - I have a bowling game that's pretty much impossible.
  • Poke your cat while he tries to sleep - Less fun if you don't have a cat. Then you're just some crazy person poking random objects.
  • Fashion a design from a paper clip - I made a...er...cool paper clip art thingy.
  • Keep checking the window - Yep, the sun's starting to come up...


Cavan blogged at 5:01 AM | 2 comments


Tuesday, August 02, 2005 - Procrastination Postulation

I have an essay due tomorrow (Escaping the New World: Sex and Suicide in Brave New World and The Handmaid's Tale). It's worth 30% of my mark in the class. I haven't started yet.

For me, this is a pretty common situation. Generally, I don't start an essay until the day before it's due. I realize that it's an extraordinarily bad move on my part - after all, any number of things could go wrong and I'd have little chance to rectify the situation.

So, why do I do it? Well, here's my procrastination postulation: I do it because I can, without any consequences. This isn't to say, of course, that there will never be any consequences. I imagine that one day something will go terribly wrong and I'll kick myself in the ass for having procrastinated for so long. But, to date, every time I leave a paper to the last minute I manage to finish it on time and pull off a relatively decent grade. So, because nothing bad has happened yet, I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing.

Of course, then there's the other reason - Twiddling my thumbs for twelve hours is more fun than writing an essay.


Cavan blogged at 11:02 AM | 0 comments


- Meet the Fockers

Most of the jokes miss the mark in this one. Fortunately, unlike most bad comedies, it never becomes irritating, thanks largely to its stars (Hoffman is particularly enjoyable). Bland, but harmless. My grade: C

Synopsis: Having given permission to male nurse Greg Focker to wed his daughter, ex-CIA man Jack Byrnes and his wife travel to Detroit to "meet the parents", who this time around are Mr. and Mrs. Focker, who are as different from them as can be. (via Yahoo)

Director: Jay Roach (Austin Powers)
Writers: James Herzfeld (Meet the Parents), John Hamburg (Zoolander), Marc Hyman (Osmosis Jones)
Stars: Ben Stiller (Dodgeball), Robert De Niro (Analyze This), Dustin Hoffman (I Heart Huckabees), Barbara Streisand (The Mirror Has Two Faces), Teri Polo (Beyond Borders), Blythe Danner (Another Woman), Alanna Ubach (Clockwatchers)


Cavan blogged at 10:06 AM | 0 comments


Progress

Mass Romantic
Currently: 13k
Estimated Total: 30k


Cavan Radio


Playlist


Reading


Roxana - Daniel Defoe

Contemporary Canadian Poetry - Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen

Restoration Poetry by James Thomson, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith and Thomas Gray


Listening


The Darkness - Permission To Land


Sam Roberts - We Were Born In A Flame


The Vines - Highly Evolved


Watching


Spider: C+


V for Vendetta: A-

Read My Reviews


Wishlist


Empire of the Senseless - Kathy Acker


Brendan Benson - The Alternative To Love


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